Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Media's View of Martin Shkreli

On September 8, 2015, Tom Evegan and and Kevin Bernier were sent this letter from the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) with collaboration from the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) demanding that Turing Pharmaceuticals, a company that had recently purchased the generic drug Daraprim (pyrimethamine) for $55 million, reverse the company's price increase on the drug. The New York Times was the first news company to report on the matter claiming that a single bottle of Daraprim changed from the price of $13.50 a tablet to over $750 a tablet immediately after the purchase of the drug. The price change caused a national outrage and sparked a serious debate on big pharma and how drug companies operate and make profit. Martin Shkreli, founder and former owner of Turing Pharmaceuticals, was the decision maker behind the price increase and has been branded as face of the problems surrounding pharmaceutical companies and has even gained the nickname "Pharma Bro" by many new organizations. 

The big media organizations have been following the story of Martin Shkreli heavily since it started in 2015. After a few quick google searches, it's quite easy to see the main stream media's dominating opinion on Shkreli and his business tactics. Here I will generalize the different major media companies' views on the Shkreli scandal by using different articles as reference. It is important to note that each company has about three or four different articles being used for reference, and not every article posted by each company should represent an entire organization's view on a subject. It is possible that the companies do not hold the conclusive view that I will state, but the articles I am using are gathered from the top search results on each respective news media companie's websites.

News Corp

The New York Post has been very aggressive in terms of their attacks on Shkreli. In this article, originally published by Fox News, Shkreli is called a "jackass" while the article discusses his various interactions with different rap artists. The article, titled "Pharma Jackass Wants To Buy Kanye's New Album for $10M" goes on to attack Shkreli for purchasing the Wu-Tang Clan album "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin" for two million dollars, which is a congruent theme in most of the articles from most of the big media companies. Another article titled "Smirky Martin Shkreli Silent as Lawmakers Rip Him" discusses Shkreli's appearance in congress in February after being charged with security fraud. The article is quick to quote members of the congressional hearing that tried to grill Shkreli for his raising of the price of Daraprim. Many of the cited quotes are very dramatic, like Maryland Representative Elijah Cumming's comment, "It's not funny Mr. Shkreli. People are dying, and they are getting sicker and sicker." The main point of the article is to point out that during the hearing Shkreli chose to plead the fifth and avoided all questions except one when the representatives had asked him whether or not his name was pronounced correctly. Some articles go as far as to treat Shkreli similar to a celebrity and comment solely on his personal life. This piece titled "Everything You Wanted to Know About Martin Shkreli's $120 Cup of Tea" goes into detail about a failed date held between Shkreli and "an ex-Tinder flame of the 32-year-old money grubber" where the two visited the Brushstroke Restaurant and purchased their famed and expensive green tea. The article begins with the statement "There won't be cups of tea like this in prison, Martin Shkreli" to immediately show it's bias. One of the more interesting articles that I was able to find comments and seems to glorify an incident in which Shkreli's twitter account was hacked. The article is titled "Creep CEO Martin Shkreli's Social Media Gets Hacked," and it seems to glorify the hackers and applaud them while continuing an assault on Shkreli's practices. The first sentence of the article states "A Hacker infiltrated the Twitter and YouTube accounts of pharma price-hike creep Martin Shkreli on Sunday, ripping the hated ex-hedge-fund manager in a string of insulting postings," which shows great bias with it's ad-hominem attacks towards Shkreli. The article continues to post several of the tweets allegedly posted by the hacker, and described Shkreli's use of his own accounts as "cocky."

Marketwatch, another company under ownership by News Corp, also stepped out of it's way to attack the former CEO. Most of their articles continue the stream of insults, like this news piece titled "Martin Shkreli Really is a Bad Boy of Pharma Government Argues." The article discusses Shkreli's current legal predicament, as he's currently being sued by one of his former companies and is currently under investigation from the FBI. The article comments on the reasons for Shkreli's arrest and the motivation behind his current lawsuit, yet, as a general theme for most of the big media companies in this list, the reporter failed to mention any basis or evidence behind the convictions. I have yet to find an article that attempts to give any kind of proof behind the allegations except for the raising of the price of Daraprim. Some of Marketwatch's articles are much less newsworthy and consist entirely of insults. For example, this article consists entirely of Martin Shkreli's face edited over six different famous villains from Hollywood movies.

21st Century Fox

Fox News is slightly more elegant in it's description of Martin Shkreli, yet their reports have been just as aggressive. With headlines like "Disgraced Drug Exec Martin Shkreli: I'm not a 'Pharma Bro,'" Fox News reports seem to follow a similar formula to the New York Post. For example, the previously mentioned article starts off with an insulting headline, states that he is currently in a lawsuit and is being investigated for criminal charges, and briefly reminds the reader of the article that Shkreli was responsible for the drug price increase. Also, just like most of The New York Post's articles, Fox News reporters are quick to state that Shkreli purchased the Wu-Tang Album. Some of Fox's reporters have been vocal on Shkreli's choice to plead the fifth amendment during his congressional hearing in February and have been going so far as to criticize him for refusing to answer questions about his company and his business practices. In this article, Shkreli is said to have been "silenced" and "muzzled" by his new lawyer Benjamin Brafman. It then continues on to comment on the Wu-Tang album, the price increase, and the lawsuit and the congressional indictment, following the Shkreli news report formula. As another example, this article titled "Ex-CEO Shkreli Smirks, Pleads Fifth at Hearing on Drug Price Hikes" follows the exact same formula as the previously mentioned article. All of the exact same issues are stated in a similar fashion, but in this article the reporter has chosen to include the same dramatic quotes that The New York Post has used in their reports, including Representative Elijah Cummings' "People are dying" statement. 


ABC News has shown a much more professional and relaxed approach to the Martin Shkreli scandal compared to the rest of the big media companies. The reporters from ABC News use more polite language to talk about Shkreli, and instead of targeting him for his Wu-Tang album purchase or his actions on social media, they instead discuss how different members of Turing Pharmaceuticals have spoken out against their CEO. In this article, the reporter has taken what appears to be a much more unbiased approach on the congressional hearing that Shkreli was subpoenaed for by cherry picking short quotes from different attendees of the hearing and from Turing's current and former employees. For example, the article states that Senator Bob Casey called Shkreli "pure evil," but does not state any kind of context for the quote. Another quote from this article comes from Howard Dorfman, a former member of Turing's general counsel, who stated that the increased price of Daraprim "was certainly unjustifiable," and that when he brought up issue with Shkreli, he responded by saying "no one cares about price increases." The article then goes on to say that the current interim CEO of Turing Ronald Tilles stated that the company spent over sixty percent of it's revenue on research and development for a replacement for Daraprim. Shortly afterwards, Senator Claire McCaskill informed Tilles of a contradictory statement made by Turing's chief commercial officer Nancy Retzlaff about how much the company had spent on research, yet the article does not cite Retzlaff's statement nor does it say why it was contradictory. A separate article can be used to exemplify ABC News' hidden bias as it discusses Shkreli's promise to decrease the price of Daraprim, yet later went back on his promise. The article begins by saying that "Notorious former pharma CEO Martin Shkreli" emailed his board of directors, and by continuing to cherry pick different quotes and statements made during the event the article states that in the email Shkreli wrote "$1bn here we come" during negotiations to purchase Daraprim. The article then goes on by stating "Shkreli drew fire for boosting the price of the drug, which is used to treat infections that are typically found in those with compromised immune systems, by 4,000 percent." This statement isn't entirely false, but the article's bias shows by quoting Shkreli's email where he said "Nice work as usual." By picking out short sentences and using them out of context, ABC News tries to show a strong case to demoralize Shkreli's business actions. The article then goes on to give a brief description of the congressional hearing that Shkreli attended, and uses similarly attacking quotations from Elijah Cummings. In contrast to the past two articles, some of ABC News' reporters have chosen to portray an almost completely unbiased approach like this article that consists mostly of statements made by Shkreli and other employees from Turing. the article gives a quotation from a statement made by the company, which as quoted says "There have been no significant advances or research into this disease area in decades, ... For toxoplasmosis and other critical, under-treated diseases, the status quo is not an option. Turing hopes to change that by targeting investments that both improve on the current formulation and seek to develop new therapeutics with better clinical profiles that we hope will help eradicate the disease." The reporter for this article has a sharp contrast in her bias on the Shkreli scandal, yet the article was written before Shkreli refused to lower the price of Daraprim and charged with security frauds which suggests that the article attempted to paint Shkreli in a better light before his current legal predicament gave news media more to report on.

Surprisingly, Vice Media, where Disney owns ten percent of the company share, released a short documentary on Shkreli that defends his actions at Turing. The video consists mainly of a reporter having wine and playing chess with Shkreli as he explains why he had raised the price of Daraprim and why he chose to "play the villain" during the scandal. It shows Shkreli giving what appears to be an honest and passionate explanation as to why the price raising was justified.


As the offshoot company of CBS, Viacom's media tends to not focus around news and hasn't stated much about the Shkreli scandal, yet one of the few instances where a program owned by Viacom has chosen to give commentary about the subject, we can find one of the most egregious statements made by any of the current media. Larry Wilmore from The Nightly Show, a program from Comedy Central which is owned by Viacom, gave a brief comment on the scandal in a segment called the Carriage of Justice. After saying "Do you guys remember this idiot?" Wilmore showed two short clips from CBS news sources that reported on the price increase of Daraprim, and then stated "I know the guillotine isn't popular anymore, I get that. But, right, hey-hey, the public showing of a head being chopped off is the only way to solve something like this sometimes, you know? Some people just need to die." Then, after a joke about Shkreli purchasing the Wu-Tang album, the article then shows another short clip from another CBS News source that gives a statement of Shkreli's arrest for security fraud which garnishes an uproarious applause.


CBS News articles show some bias on the Shkreli scandal in a political manner. In this article, the reporters comment on the price increase and quote Shkreli when he states that in his opinion the price increase shouldn't be considered excessive. Then, after the commentary of the price increase is finished, the article discusses how "the topic entered political debate" and reports statements and actions made by democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Hillary is quoted saying "Price gouging this in the specialty drug market is outrageous," and Bernie Sanders offers his comment on the price change by calling it "... the latest in a long list of skyrocketing price increases for certain critical medications." The article ends by commenting on Hillary Clinton's promise to lay out a plan for regulating pharma increases like this in the future. A different article that was posted on the same day as the previous article follows an almost cookie-cutter like pattern listing the same information in a slightly different order while leaving out the political statements from the democratic candidates. The similarity between the two suggests that CBS had developed a formula on how it chose to report the scandal. When it came to Shrkeli's congressional appearance, CBS News reporters condemned Shkreli's choice to plead the Fifth Amendment and stated that his lawyer had "muzzled" him, while also using the same aggressive quotes from Representative Cummings as shown in this article. The article also comments on an exchange held on Twitter between Shkreli and member of the California State Assembly Ted Lieu, where Lieu responded to a tweet made by Shkreli that called the members of the congressional panel "imbeciles." The article also states that after the hearing, Shkreli began live-streaming on the social media site Blab where he answered questions from those interested in the hearing, yet the article does not cite any of the answers he had given. Instead, the article condemned Shkreli for refusing to answer questions from CBS News reporter Vladimir Duthiers and stated that Shkreli told Duthiers that "he would not take questions from the media."

Time Warner

Most of the reporting done by CNN on the Shkreli scandal is done through CNN Money. The potential profit margin of the price increase is the typical focus from CNN's reports, like for example this article which has a headline of "As Turing Pharmaceuticals took steps to Acquire a Life-Saving Drug, Former CEO Martin Shkreli Saw Dollar Signs." It begins with the quote from Shkreli's seized personal email where he wrote "$1bn here we come." The article also quote's a letter written to a contact who's information isn't stated by the reporter where Shkreli wrote "We raised the price from $1,700 per bottle to $75,000 ... So 5,000 paying bottles at the new price is $375,000,000 - almost all of it is profit and I think we will get 3 years of that or more." Although Shkreli has stated many times before, this quotation is interesting since Shkreli is suggesting that only 5,000 bottles will be sold at the new price. According to the World Health Organization, over 60 million people in the United States are currently infected with toxoplasmosis, the parasitic disease that Daraprim treats, and although few people actually develop symptoms of toxoplasmosis, there are well over 5,000 patients in need of treatment for the disease. Some of CNN Money's reports on Shkreli are not as interested in the profits of the price increase as its other articles, like for example this video titled "Best Moments from Martin Shkreli Hearing" where short clips of Shkreli smirking and stating that he is pleading the Fifth Amendment are edited in with the aggressive accusations made by the members of the congressional hearing.


NBC News outlets have chosen the same formulaic system of reporting the Shkreli scandal. As and example, this article comments on the same quotes made in Shkreli's email, the decision to plead the Fifth Amendment in Shkreli's congressional hearing, the same statements on the Daraprim price increase, the same quotes from members of the hearing like Representative Cummings' statements, the purchasing of the Wu-Tang album, and the Twitter tit-for-tats held between Shkreli and members of congress. What's different about this article is that the language the reporters have used is much more professional when it comes to discussing Shkreli's actions; not once is he called a "bad boy" or a "pharma bro" in the article, with the exception that in the headline the word "Pharma Bro" is placed in quotations suggesting that the article doesn't want to affiliate itself with that kind of branding but has instead decided to only acknowledge the nickname. A different article offers all of the same information, yet it leaves out the many quotes from the different congressional members and instead offers a relatively detailed account on the arrest and the charges being brought up against him. It also mentions that Evan Greebel was arrested along with Martin Shkreli and has been charged similarly with security fraud and wire fraud, a detail that seems to be left out from most of the articles discussed in this blog post. Overall, NBC News has taken a much more professional approach to reporting the Shkreli scandal, yet by using the same information that has been repeated in most of the articles posted here, one can still assume bias in their reports.

General Overview of the Stance of Main Stream Media

I would be stating the obvious if I said that the main stream media doesn't like Martin Shkreli. Whether it be the obscenity-laden remarks from the New York Post and Comedy Central's Larry Wilmore, or the professional and eloquent remarks from NBC News, the main stream media wants to see Shkreli thrown in jail. To summarize, there are four major issues that are discussed between all of the companies:
  1. Raising the price of Daraprim is unjustifiable
  2. Patients in need of treatment for toxoplasmosis won't be able to afford the new price of Daraprim, and many will suffer from their inability to receive medication.
  3. Martin Shkreli used the money that he has gained from the price increase of Daraprim to purchase the $2 million Wu-Tang album "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin."
  4. Martin Shkreli is guilty of the charges brought against him, and will also lose his lawsuit against Retrophin.
As I stated at the beginning of this blog post, not every reporter that works for these news media outlets will necessarily agree with these statements, but my opinion of the main stream media's views has been gathered from some of the more popular and better marketed articles posted online from the major media companies.

Sources Listed in Order of Appearance:

  • Calderwood, Stephen B. "Letter Regarding the Price Increase for Daraprim." Letter to Tom Evegan & Kevin Bernier. 8 Sept. 2015. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.
    • Infamous letter sent to members of Turing Pharmaceuticals regarding the price increase that started the Shkreli scandal
  • Pollack, Andrew. "Drug Goes From $13.50 a Tablet to $750, Overnight." The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • A general news article used to cite the price increase of Daraprim.
  • "Martin Shkreli." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Martin Shkreli's general Wikipedia page. It is used to invite readers to read more about the man behind the scandal.
  • "Pharma Jackass Wants to Buy Kanye’s New Album for $10M." New York Post. Fox News, 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by the New York Post used as an example for News Corp's bias.
  • Perez, Chris. "Smirky Martin Shkreli Silent as Lawmakers Rip Him." New York Post. N.p., 04 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by the New York Post used as an example for News Corp's bias.
  • Goldberg, Haley. "Everything You Wanted to Know about Martin Shkreli’s $120 Cup of Tea." New York Post. N.p., 07 Jan. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by the New York Post used as an example for News Corp's bias.
  • Strum, Beckie. "Creep CEO Martin Shkreli’s Social Media Gets Hacked." New York Post. N.p., 20 Dec. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by the New York Post used as an example for News Corp's bias.
  • Court, Emma. "Martin Shkreli Really Is a Bad Boy of Pharma, Government Argues." MarketWatch. N.p., 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by MarketWatch used as an example for News Corp's bias.
  • Langlois, Shawn. "6 Perfect Roles for Martin Shkreli, Hollywood's next Leading Man." MarketWatch. N.p., 11 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by MarketWatch used as an example for News Corp's bias.
  • "Disgraced Drug Exec Martin Shkreli: I'm Not a 'pharma Bro' | Fox News." Fox News. FOX News Network, 18 Jan. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by Fox News used as an example to show 21st Century Fox's bias. 
  • "New Lawyer Silences Bad-boy Ex-pharma CEO Martin Shkreli | Fox News."Fox News. FOX News Network, 03 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by Fox News used as an example to show 21st Century Fox's bias. 
  • Perrone, Matthew. "Lawmakers Challenge Turing Executives on Drug Price Hikes." ABC News. ABC News Network, 17 Mar. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by ABC News used to show Disney's bias.
  • Siegel, Benjamin, and Mary Bruce. "Former Pharma Big Martin Shkreli Boasted '$1 Bn Here We Come,' Documents Say." ABC News. ABC News Network, 2 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by ABC News used to show Disney's bias.
  • Mohney, Gillian. "Company Will Lower Drug Price After Critics Called 4,000% Hike 'Unjustifiable'" ABC News. ABC News Network, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by ABC News used to show Disney's bias.
  • Conti, Allie. "Watch: Martin Shkreli on Drug Price Hikes and Playing the World's Villain | VICE | United States." VICE. VICE Media LLC, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by VICE News used to counter Disney's bias. 
  • Wilmore, Larry. "Carriage of Justice - Martin Shkreli's Arrest- - Video Clip | Comedy Central." Comedy Central. Viacom, 17 Dec. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Video segment from an episode of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore used to show Viacom's bias.
  • "Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli Defends 5,000 Percent Price Hike on Daraprim." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by CBS News used to show CBS's bias.
  • "Meet the Moneyman behind a Controversial Prescription Price Hike."CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by CBS News used to show CBS's bias.
  • Gibson, Katie. "Even Muzzled, Martin Shkreli Still Annoys Lawmakers."CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 4 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by CBS News used to show CBS's bias.
  • McClean, Robert. "Martin Shkreli on Drug Price Hike: '$1 Billion Here We Come'" CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 3 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by CNNMoney used to show Time Warner's bias. 
  • Torgerson, Paul R., and Pierpaolo Mastroiacovo. "Diagnosing Congenital Toxoplasmosis: Where Are We? A Systematic Review." Int Arch Med International Archives of Medicine (2015): 501-08. World Health Organization, 2013 July 1. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • A couple of pages from a World Health Organization research paper that gives statistics about toxoplasmosis.
  • "Martin Shkreli's Many Faces Say More than Words." CNNMoney. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by CNNMoney used to show Time Warner's bias. 
  • Abdullah, Halimah. "'Pharma Bro' Martin Shkreli Invokes the Fifth Before Congress." NBC News. Comcast, 4 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by NBC News used to show Comcast's bias.
  • Ortiz, Erik, Johnathan Dientz, Joe Valiquette, and Alicia Hastey. "FBI Arrests Pharma CEO Martin Shkreli on Securities Fraud Charges." NBC News. Comcast, 17 Dec. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. <>.
    • Article by NBC News used to show Comcast's bias.

No comments:

Post a Comment